Page 27 - HealthcareNews May/June 2021
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Serving the Pioneer Valley in Western MA since 1953
     Jessica Collins says fighting the opioid crisis requires strategies that go be- yond treatment and include youth engagement, policy changes, and a shift in the way society views addiction.
Yet another strategy is emphasizing youth education and prevention across the four counties of Western Mass., using school surveys to better understand student drug-use behavior, as well as mental-health indicators. Furthermore, Collins said, “youth need alternative reinforcing activities for sure, with men- toring and appropriate programs.”
Through mentorship programs, summer jobs, and other efforts, she added, “we are changing a generation coming up that has lived through the CO- VID-19 pandemic, and making sure those kids are supported, so, for the next couple decades, they don’t steer into an addiction track, but can hold their own and contribute to society. I think we have a tremendous opportunity right now to put resources toward programming to support young people.”
The takeaway is that opioid interventions need to be begin well before drug use ever begins, through a network of community-wide prevention and policy strategies.
But another big takeaway, detailed in the state report, is that opioid misuse
“The pandemic has shone a spotlight on
the health inequities in our society, with a disproportionate impact on communities of
color. So, too, has the opioid epidemic.”
and overdose are equity issues as well. In Massachusetts, all drug-overdose deaths increased by 5% from 2019 to 2020 — but rates among black, non- Hispanic males increased by a staggering 69%, from 32.6 to 55.1 per 100,000 people, the highest increase of any ethnic or racial group.
“The pandemic has shone a spotlight on the health inequities in our soci- ety, with a disproportionate impact on communities of color,” Markey said. “So, too, has the opioid epidemic. That 69% increase ... shows us the opioid crisis is not just a white problem.”
The governor agreed.
“Both the COVID-19 pandemic and the opioid epidemic have underscored the importance of supporting disproportionately impacted communities,
and as we address both issues, our administration has continued to focus on equity as a core component of our response,” Baker noted.
Please see Opioids, page 43

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